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Boekrecensie: Ayahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond

Ayahuasca_shamanismAyahuasca Shamanism in the Amazon and Beyond, edited by Beatriz Caiuby Labate & Clancy Cavnar, Oxford University Press, 2014.

Dit boek werd onlangs door de redacteuren gepresenteerd op de World Ayahuasca Conference 2014. Het is deel van een serie getiteld Oxford Ritual Studies en geeft ons de resultaten van het veldwerk van een verscheidenheid aan antropologen in verschillende delen van het Amazonegebied (Peru, Brazilië en Colombia) en daarbuiten (Zuid-Brazilië en stadscentra in de regio). Het boek vloeit voort uit de Amazon Conference: Amazonian Shamanism, Psychoactive Plants and Ritual Reinvention, die plaatsvond aan de universiteit van Heidelberg in 2010.

De essays gaan over verschillende groepen mensen die ayahuasca gebruiken: over stammen die ayahuasca gebruiken in wat als een traditionele setting beschouwd kan worden, over stammen die recent ayahuasca zijn gaan gebruiken, over de mestizo sjamanen en over de toeristen die vooral uit Noord-Amerika en Europa het Amazonegebied in komen om ayahuasca te gebruiken . Deze diversiteit zorgt voor een gevarieerde collectie van essays, waaruit als geheel blijkt dat ayahuasca zowel gebruikt wordt om cultuur en identiteit op te bouwen, als om verbindingen en uitwisseling aan te gaan tussen stammen en/of groepen.

Het beeld dat hieruit naar voren komt laat ons zien dat sommige van de wijdverspreide noties rond de geschiedenis van ayahuasca en de manier waarop het traditioneel gebruikt wordt ongefundeerd zijn en nodig herzien dienen te worden. Een voorbeeld is dat de meeste bestudeerde stammen in dit boek slechts relatief recent ayahuasca zoals wij dat nu kennen zijn gaan gebruiken, sommige, zoals de Shipibo, sinds rond de 150-200 jaar, en andere slechts sinds enkele decennia. Dit zorgt voor een aantal belangrijke vragen over ‘traditionaliteit’ en hoe het gebruik van ayahuasca de culturele identiteit van deze stammen heeft veranderd. In het algemeen laten de auteurs zien dat het overnemen van het gebruik van ayahuasca ervoor heeft gezorgd dat de betreffende stammen hun identiteit rondom dit gebruik hebben gebouwd, terwijl de groei van het toerisme dit effect nog heeft versterkt. Een ander effect van het toerisme is dat de ‘traditionele manieren om ayahuasca te gebruiken ’ getransformeerd zijn door de verwachtingen en de conceptuele frameworks van de toeristen, wat heeft geresulteerd in de opkomst van retreat centers met een focus op persoonlijke ontwikkeling en heling met een eclectische aanpak die sterk afwijkt van de rituele sjamanistische context waarbinnen de lokale bevolking ayahuasca gebruikt. Men incorporeert elementen uit andere spirituele tradities in de behandeling, zoals zweethutten, Ayurvedische behandelingen, enzovoort. De essays laten zien dat culturele uitwisseling deze praktijken sterk vormgeeft, in tegenstelling tot het idee dat er een-richtingsverkeer is van lokale wijsheid die wordt doorgegeven aan de toeristen.

De vraag of dit een positieve of negatieve ontwikkeling is, wordt niet gesteld, maar de boodschap die dit boek geeft is dat ondanks het feit dat de verspreiding van het gebruik van ayahuasca recenter is dan veelal gedacht en dat de wijze van gebruik ook continu verandert, het gebruik van ayahuasca in het vormen van culturele identiteiten niet minder legitiem is. In het kort openen deze essays enkele nieuwe paden voor het onderzoeken van de wisselwerking tussen traditie, cultuur, identiteit en ayahuasca. Dit boek is een welkome toevoeging voor wie geïnteresseerd is in het gebruik van ayahuasca in het Amazonegebied en daarbuiten, zowel voor antropologen als voor hen die een meer algemene interesse in ayahuasca hebben. Aanrader!

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Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal

It’s no secret that psychedelic drugs have the ability to cast light on the miraculous reality hidden within our psyche. Almost immediately after the discovery of LSD less than a hundred years ago, psychedelics began to play a crucial role in the quest to understand the link between mind and matter. With an uncanny ability to reveal the mind’s remote frontiers and the unmapped areas of human consciousness, LSD and MDMA (better known as Ecstasy) have proven extraordinarily effective in treating anxiety disorders such as PTSD—yet the drugs remain illegal for millions of people who might benefit from them.

Anchoring Tom Shroder’s Acid Test are the stories of Rick Doblin, the founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), who has been fighting government prohibition of psychedelics for more than thirty years; Michael Mithoefer, a former emergency room physician, now a psychiatrist at the forefront of psychedelic therapy research; and his patient Nicholas Blackston, a former Marine who has suffered unfathomable mental anguish from the effects of brutal combat experiences in Iraq. All three men are passionate, relatable people; each flawed, each resilient, and each eccentric, yet very familiar and very human.

Acid Test covers the first heady years of experimentation in the fifties and sixties, through the backlash of the seventies and eighties, when the drug subculture exploded and uncontrolled use of street psychedelics led to a PR nightmare that created the drug stereotypes of the present day. Meticulously researched and astoundingly informative, this is at once a personal story of intertwining lives against an epic backdrop, and a compelling argument for the unprecedented healing properties of drugs that have for decades been characterized as dangerous, illicit substances.

Tom Shroder has been an award-winning journalist, writer and editor for more than 30 years.

Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal, door Tom Shroder, Blue Rider Press, 448 pagina’s.

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Confrontation with the Unconscious: Jungian Depth Psychology and Psychedelic Experience

Carl Gustav Jung pioneered the transformative potential of the deep unconscious. Psychedelic substances provide direct and powerful access to this inner world. How, then, might Jungian psychology help us to better understand the nature of psychedelic experiences? And how might psychedelics assist the movement toward psychological transformation described by Jung?

Jungian depth psychology and psychedelic psychotherapy are both concerned with coming to terms with unconscious drives, complexes, and symbolic images. Unaware of significant evidence for the safe clinical use of psychedelic drugs, Jung himself remained wary of psychedelics and staunchly opposed their therapeutic use. His bias has prevented Jungians from objectively considering the benefits as well as the risks of using psychedelics for psychological healing and growth.

Confrontation with the Unconscious intertwines psychedelic research, personal accounts of psychedelic experiences, and C. G. Jung’s work on trauma, the shadow, psychosis, and psychospiritual transformation — including Jung’s own “confrontation with the unconscious” — to show the relevance of Jung’s penetrating insights to the work of Stanislav Grof, Ann Shulgin, Ronald Sandison, Margot Cutner, among other psychedelic and transpersonal researchers, and to demonstrate the great value of Jung’s penetrating insights for understanding difficult psychedelic experiences and promoting safe and effective psychedelic exploration and psychotherapy.

Scott J. Hill, Ph. D., lives in Sweden, where he conducts scholarly research on the intersection between psychedelic studies and Jungian psychology. He holds degrees in psychology from the University of Minnesota and in philosophy and religion from the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Confrontation with the Unconscious: Jungian Depth Psychology and Psychedelic Experience, door Scott J. Hill, Muswell Hill Press, 252 pagina’s.

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Entheogens, Society & Law – Towards a Politics of Consciousness, Autonomy & Responsibility

41U01VD7AyL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_Entheogens, Society & Law takes a major step towards a comprehensive understanding of the human condition, elucidating how empathy, meaning and purpose emerge from three intersecting areas of human life: biology, consciousness and culture.

The term “entheogen” designates a class of psychoactive plant and substance uses that have played, and continue to play, an important role as catalysts of experiences of the “divine,” “sacred” or “numinous,” as well as in divination, healing and, more recently, psychotherapy. The authors expand on these ideas, borrowing from a wide range of disciplines — pharmacology, neurology, consciousness research, psychology, semiotics, theology and mythology — and immersing the reader in a radical and empowering exegesis of influential cultural myths such as that of Original Sin. The resulting insights have practical and ethical implications in many areas of contemporary society, including education, mental health, human rights and law.

Much of the literature on psychedelics and altered states of consciousness remains firmly entrenched in the dualistic logic of prohibition discourse. Unfortunately, this detracts from its ability to engage with the broader existential, ethical and humanitarian questions that, the author’s argue, any bona fide religious or therapeutic tradition needs to address. With its focus on ethics, Entheogens, Society & Law pursues a pragmatic inquiry guided by one paramount question: how can individuals take responsibility for their own lives and wrest power and authority from institutions that deprive them of the very liberties, e.g. to explore consciousness and alter mental functioning, upon which the exercise of responsibility is premised? This question leads to a critical examination of contemporary discourses on emergent ‘technologies of the self,’ human rights, the ‘common good’ — and the extents of state interference with the self-defining choices of sovereign individuals.

The theoretical questions raised by the meta-analysis presented here propose the possibility, if not necessity, of addressing the crises of modernity, including problems surrounding drug use, as a series of contingencies generated by the competing interests of individual’s search for a meaningful existence and powerful institutions exercising hegemonic control over what we can and cannot do towards that ends. This ethical inquiry exposes the faulty premises of exercises of authority and power by demonstrating the central role of human consciousness in the generation of values that ultimately define us and determine what we become. This places discussion on the nature of ‘mind-altering substances’ at the heart of contemporary discourses on human rights, offering empowering and inspiring insights into the future of humanity.

Entheogens, Society & Law — Towards a Politics of Consciousness, Autonomy & Responsibility, by Daniel Waterman, Melrose Books, 496 pages.

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Entheogens, Society & Law – Towards a Politics of Consciousness, Autonomy & Responsibility

Entheogens, Society & Law takes a major step towards a comprehensive understanding of the human condition, elucidating how empathy, meaning and purpose emerge from three intersecting areas of human life: biology, consciousness and culture.

The term “entheogen” designates a class of psychoactive plant and substance uses that have played, and continue to play, an important role as catalysts of experiences of the “divine,” “sacred” or “numinous,” as well as in divination, healing and, more recently, psychotherapy. The authors expand on these ideas, borrowing from a wide range of disciplines — pharmacology, neurology, consciousness research, psychology, semiotics, theology and mythology — and immersing the reader in a radical and empowering exegesis of influential cultural myths such as that of Original Sin. The resulting insights have practical and ethical implications in many areas of contemporary society, including education, mental health, human rights and law.

Much of the literature on psychedelics and altered states of consciousness remains firmly entrenched in the dualistic logic of prohibition discourse. Unfortunately, this detracts from its ability to engage with the broader existential, ethical and humanitarian questions that, the author’s argue, any bona fide religious or therapeutic tradition needs to address. With its focus on ethics, Entheogens, Society & Law pursues a pragmatic inquiry guided by one paramount question: how can individuals take responsibility for their own lives and wrest power and authority from institutions that deprive them of the very liberties, e.g. to explore consciousness and alter mental functioning, upon which the exercise of responsibility is premised? This question leads to a critical examination of contemporary discourses on emergent ‘technologies of the self,’ human rights, the ‘common good’ — and the extents of state interference with the self-defining choices of sovereign individuals.

The theoretical questions raised by the meta-analysis presented here propose the possibility, if not necessity, of addressing the crises of modernity, including problems surrounding drug use, as a series of contingencies generated by the competing interests of individual’s search for a meaningful existence and powerful institutions exercising hegemonic control over what we can and cannot do towards that ends. This ethical inquiry exposes the faulty premises of exercises of authority and power by demonstrating the central role of human consciousness in the generation of values that ultimately define us and determine what we become. This places discussion on the nature of ‘mind-altering substances’ at the heart of contemporary discourses on human rights, offering empowering and inspiring insights into the future of humanity.

Entheogens, Society & Law — Towards a Politics of Consciousness, Autonomy & Responsibility, door Daniel Waterman, Melrose Books, 496 pagina’s.

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Labyrint: Geestverruimende Therapie

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Paddo’s gebruiken om depressieve klachten te bestrijden? Of LSD-therapie om van je rookverslaving af te komen? Op 19 december 2012 zond Labyrint TV een aflevering uit over grensverleggend onderzoek naar het gebruik van psychedelica in de behandelkamer van de psychiater. Gefilmd tijdens Stichting OPEN’s Interdisciplinary Conference on Psychedelic Research in 2012.

Voor het eerst uitgezonden op 19 december 2012.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Matthew Johnson – A Systematic Research Program Examining Psilocybin, Mystical Experience, Personality Change, Adverse Effects and Therapeutic Applications

This talk will describe several lines of research with psilocybin conducted by our laboratory at Johns Hopkins (Baltimore, USA). Completed study results to be presented include: the effects of different psilocybin doses on mystical experience and challenging effects (“bad trips”); the effects of psilocybin in altering personality (increased openness); and the effects of psilocybin on headache. Ongoing studies will also be described, including a study examining psilocybin to treat cancer-related anxiety and depression, a study examining psilocybin to facilitate the adoption of a meditation practice, and a study examining psilocybin in addiction (tobacco smoking) treatment.

BIOGRAPHY

Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, US. He received a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Vermont, and completed a fellowship in behavioral pharmacology at Johns Hopkins.

Darwin's Pharmacy: Sex, Plants, and the Evolution of the Noosphere

DarwinspharmacyAre humans unwitting partners in evolution with psychedelic plants? Darwin’s Pharmacy weaves the evolutionary theory of sexual selection and the study of rhetoric together with the science and literature of psychedelic drugs. Long suppressed as components of the human tool kit, psychedelic plants can be usefully modelled as “eloquence adjuncts” that intensify a crucial component of sexual selection in humans: discourse. In doing so, they engage our awareness of the noosphere, defined by V.I. Vernadsky as the thinking stratum of the earth, the realm of consciousness feeding back onto the biosphere. Sharing intelligence, connecting with the noosphere and integrating individuality into its eco-systemic context offers powerful and promising ways to respond to ecosystems in crisis, and formed the backdrop of what Doyle dubs the “ecodelic” thought of the environmental movement. Yet current policies criminalize the use of plant-based psychedelics while simultaneously feeding a violent global black market for refined and chemically-derived drugs. In this tour de force of “first-person science,” Doyle takes his readers on a mind bending journey through the work of William Burroughs, Kary Mullis, Lynn Margulis, Timothy Leary, Norma Panduro, Albert Hoffman, Aldous Huxley, Dennis and Terrence McKenna, John Lilly and Phillip K. Dick. Readers who take the journey that is Darwin’s Pharmacy will experience extraordinary insights into evolutionary theory, the war on drugs, the internet, and the nature of human consciousness itself. Richard M. Doyle is professor of English and science, technology, and society at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of On Beyond Living and Wetwares.

Darwin’s Pharmacy: Sex, Plants, and the Evolution of the Noosphere (In Vivo), door Richard Doyle, University of Washington Press, 336 pagina’s.

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Torsten Passie – Astonishing Similarities of Physiological and Psychoactive Drug Induced States

Dr. Passie completed his training as a specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy as well as his academic work at the Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich, in practice by Prof. Hans Carl Leuner in Göttingen and Hannover Medical School. He wrote his doctorate on existential aspects of psychiatric disorders and habilitation of altered states of consciousness. Prior to joining Oberberg, Dr. Passie was the Chief Physician of the Department of Psychiatry, Social Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, and Medical Director of the Hannover Centre of the Federal German model project for heroin assisted treatment of opiate addicts at the Medical University of Hannover.